- Associated Press - Friday, December 18, 2015

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kenya Cox, president of the Wichita branch of the NAACP, was named Friday as the new executive director of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission.

Cox serves on several boards and organizations in Sedgwick County and was the assistant regional director for community service for the Kansas Department for Children and Families. She also once worked for Republican congressmen Mike Pompeo as the senior constituent service representative and for Todd Tiahrt as the fourth district congressional liaison.

Commissioner Sherdeill Breathett said in a news release that Cox has a skill set that will make her “an effective liaison for the African American community, the legislature and all partners across the state.”

The commission’s last executive director, Mildred Edwards, resigned in May.

Last summer, the board presented three potential replacements for Edwards to the governor but none were approved.

“These people were disqualified only because they were not Republicans,” said James Barfield of Wichita, who was involved in the selection process before his commission appointment expired in June. “The administration wants to micromanage the board, to use the board not to address issues it’s supposed to address but to enhance the Brownback administration.”

Brownback’s spokeswoman, Eileen Hawley, said she couldn’t discuss the specifics of interviews or hiring decisions, but that the administration strives to select the best candidate to serve the commission and Kansas residents.

One of the three commission selections was Glenda Overstreet of Topeka, who is a former president of the local and state NAACP organizations and has a doctorate in business administration. Overstreet said she had a telephone interview with governor’s office staff and was asked “why I had never supported Gov. Brownback in any of my articles,” a reference to op-ed columns she writes for The Topeka Capital-Journal.

Overstreet said she didn’t think being a registered Democrat made her ineligible for the position.

Patrick Woods, who was a commission member until September and was involved in the process to pick a new executive director, said the governor’s office didn’t give a reason the commission’s selections were rejected.

“This was not about politics on the part of the commission,” Woods said. “Our statutory duty is not to do what’s best for the governor or the Republican Party. Our duty is to recommend programs that will improve the lives of African-Americans in Kansas.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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